This time of year, financial planning may be the last thing on your mind. Yet before summer sets in, consider using this opportunity to recommit to your financial and estate plans.
By Richard W. Stout III and Thomas Britt
It’s hard to believe that the year is almost half over. It feels like just yesterday we were talking about end-of-year tax planning and setting goals for the year ahead. Indeed, time may be passing more quickly than any of us would like. Nevertheless, it’s important not to lose sight of our priorities—especially with the lull of summer closing in.
Of course, we firmly believe in taking time to disconnect and unwind by yourself or with loved ones. However, if your personal or financial circumstances have changed since the start of the year, consider taking a moment to revisit your financial and estate plans. By making any necessary changes now, you can enjoy peace of mind this summer, knowing your plans are aligned with your needs and goals.
Before recommitting to your financial and estate plans, ask yourself these three questions:
#1: Have my personal circumstances or family dynamics changed?
For many of us, life stood still during the pandemic—or it at least felt that way. Now, with life returning to normal, you may finally be moving forward with your pre-pandemic plans. That may include planning a wedding, expanding your family, or launching a new business in a less threatening environment.
At the same time, the pandemic forced many older Americans to reevaluate their retirement plans. Indeed, millions of baby boomers retired early due to the Covid-19 pandemic, either by choice or necessity. Meanwhile, many more workers have quit their jobs, changed jobs, or are looking for new jobs as The Great Reshuffle presses on.
Whether at home or at work, if your circumstances have changed, it’s important to revisit your financial and estate plans. First, an expansion of your family may prompt changes to your beneficiaries and other end-of-life wishes. In addition, any changes to your career path or retirement timeline may warrant a change to your savings rate and investment plan.
The bottom line is your financial plan is a living document that changes as you do. If you’ve experienced any major life changes since the last time you updated your financial plan, now may be the right time to revisit it.
#2: Have my financial goals changed?
Financial goals are often generic, especially if they’re way off in the distance. For example, you may be saving for retirement but have no concrete plans for when you’d like to retire. Or perhaps you dream of buying a vacation home, but you’ve never taken the time to decide where or how.
There’s nothing wrong with having open-ended plans. However, as your circumstances and values change, your goals may change, too. At a minimum, they may become more focused.
If your goals have changed since the last time you updated your financial and estate plans, be sure to discuss them with your financial planner and estate planning attorney. Your goals can have a meaningful impact on your overall financial plan, including your investment approach. In addition, updating your estate plan to reflect your new goals will help ensure your assets are distributed—and your legacy endures—according to your wishes.
#3: Have external circumstances changed?
After a relatively calm 2021, 2022 has been anything but. Market volatility is spiking, inflation is sky-high, and interest rates are on the rise. Meanwhile, the bond market offers little solace to investors seeking safety.
As long-term investors, we don’t recommend changing your investment plan because of market movement. Indeed, studies show that investors who try to time the market often get worse results than those who stick to their investment strategy over time. Still, evolving external circumstances may have an impact on your plans, especially when they affect the tax code or other regulatory policies.
For instance, the SECURE Act of 2019 made a number of changes to the way Americans save for retirement and draw down their retirement accounts. As an example, the SECURE Act pushed back the age retirees must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs). In addition, it changed the rules for inherited IRAs. Now, most non-spousal beneficiaries must draw down account balances within 10 years of taking ownership.
Policy changes like these can meaningfully affect your financial and estate plans. A trusted financial planner can help you adjust course as the world around you changes.
You Don’t Have to Go It Alone
Ideally, our financial and estate plans reflect life’s many changes–marriage, children, retirement, and ultimately, the legacies we leave behind. Yet as time passes, our circumstances, family dynamics, and goals can change dramatically and unexpectedly. A mid-year check-in can help you ensure your financial plan is still in line with the life you have, as well as the life you want.
The good news is you don’t have to go it alone. A trusted financial advisor like Benchmark Wealth Management can help you create a financial plan that reflects your personal circumstances, values, and goals. In addition, we’ll help you proactively update your plans and your world changes. If you’d like to speak with a member of our team about developing a financial plan that can help you reach your goals, we encourage you to get in touch.
Richard W. Stout III is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 25 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in financial planning and asset management for individuals, families, and institutions seeking to build and monitor durable and sustainable plans for their financial futures. Rick is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and holds the Accredited Investment Fiduciary® (AIF®) designation. He obtained his MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his BA in Economics and Anthropology from the University of Connecticut. Rick has earned a Master of Science degree in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning. He has extensive background experience in lending, credit review and analysis, and real estate and partnership management. Learn more about Rick by connecting with him on LinkedIn.
Thomas J. Britt is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 20 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in executive financial planning, retirement planning, investing, as well as the management of trusts and endowments. Thomas is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and holds the Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM, MPAS®, Certified Investment Management Analyst® (CIMA®), and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠, CRPC® designations. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of New Haven, an MBA in financial technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Navy Submarine Force. Learn more about Tom by connecting with him on LinkedIn.
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